Recession Chic

a down economy does not = ugly shoes

Updated Tuna Noodle Casserole May 13, 2011

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 1:58 PM
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As someone who loves a ‘one-pot-wonder’ meal, as well as cheese paired with any sort of carb, it’s surprising that I’ve not made many casseroles. That all changed this week. Even though I work from home and have my kitchen close by all day, I understand that having a Rolodex of make ahead meals can be an asset for any cook.

As a tribute to classic Americana dinners, I thought make ahead meal #1 should be the hated/loved tuna noodle casserole. I searched and found this recipe from The Cooking Channel sounded like a great foundation for an updated take on this standard. Now, this isn’t a Top Chef-style complete revamp of a recipe, but just some tips on making the dish more flavorful and fresh.

Here are the swaps:

  • Butter, onion, sherry,soy sauce, egg noodles — just leave as is
  • Just say no to white button mushrooms. They have minimal flavor and add little to the dish. I used portabellos instead
  • Vegetable stock instead of Chicken
  • Cream instead of whole milk (because that’s what I had in the fridge)
  • More frozen peas than suggested. No reason why you shouldn’t have a full serving of veggies in the casserole
  • Canned tuna has never looked good to me, but I’ve always been a fan of the tuna packets. I chose a Yellowfin tuna in olive oil – not drained
  • Aged white cheddar, not yellow
  • Top with the recommended Panko breadcrumbs

The casserole was full of flavor but not terrible rich or saucy. The Panko added a great crunch and using soy sauce to flavor the mushrooms helped keep everything from getting too salty. I forgot to snap a photo when it came out of the oven, but I decided to capture the leftovers after having it again for lunch today. You can tell there isn’t too much left. Yum!

Oh, and if you have any other casserole or make ahead meal ideas, send them my way!


Dining In: Goat Cheese, Greens and Béchamel over Shells March 19, 2010

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 11:46 AM
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After traveling for a week, I was is desperate need of eating and cooking a nice home-cooked meal. My Google Reader was filled to the brim with tons of recipes from all the blogs that I follow that had been neglected over the last 7 days. I took my time and decided on this French pasta dish from Serious Eats.

Happily I hopped over to the HEB after work to get everything for the meal. I decided to simplify the recipe to cut down on prep time and limit the number of ingredients I would need to buy. I only used two veggies (spinach and peas), and opted out of the shallot, egg yolk and nutmeg.

Unfortunately, in my hustle to get home and start cooking, I forgot to pick up the large shells to stuff. So, instead I used smaller whole wheat shells I already had in the pantry and combined the cheese stuffing and béchamel into a sauce.


Dining In: Pea, Basil and Feta Risotto August 10, 2009

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 1:52 PM
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Often I alter recipes I find to better suit my taste preferences. I could make that claim for this tasty risotto dish, but I would be lying. When I came across this recipe from Design*Sponge in my starred items in Google Reader, I thought it would be a perfect French inspired dish. Plus, I knew I had Arborio rice and fresh mint at home already. Or so I thought.

I stopped by the HEB after yoga that evening to get a bottle of wine, feta cheese, vegetable stock, and frozen peas — all I needed to make my dinner. Well, turns out, I really only had basil and a basil pesto risotto mix at home. So, the French meal quickly shifted to something more Mediterranean. All in all, it was delicious! I plan to relive the meal tonight with leftovers.


  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice (or basil pesto risotto mix)
  • 3 cups of warm vegetable stock
  • ½ cup of crumbled feta
  • ½ bunch of basil, leaves lightly chopped
  • 2 cups of frozen peas
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper


  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and then blanch the peas, garlic and basil leaves with a teaspoon of salt in the water. Leave for about 3 minutes.
  2. Remove about ¼ of the peas and basil, and place the rest into a blender, along with the water and purée.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan on a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Then, add the rice and stir for about a minute until the rice is nice and glossy.
  4. Add about a cup of the warm vegetable stock and stir slowly, allowing the rice to gently absorb the stock. Once the stock has been absorbed and the rice is gently bubbling away, add another cup of stock and repeat.
  5. Do this for each cup of stock to follow, and with the last cup of stock, add the purée pea, basil and garlic and stir to combine and allow all the liquid to be absorbed.
  6. When the rice is al dente (this should take about 25 minutes), first taste to see if it needs a little salt and if so, add. Then turn off the heat and stir in the feta. Stir in the remaining pea and basil that was set aside.
  7. Top with Parmesan and serve.



Dining In: Shell Pasta with Crab, Pistou and Peas May 10, 2009

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 7:41 PM
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French food isn’t something I normally get excited about. But, when I saw this recipe with crab and sweet peas…I decided this might be the summer for starting to dabble in French cuisine. Paired with a recession-friendly white wine, this was the perfect Sunday dinner on a hot day.

dinner is served


1 pound whole wheat sea shell pasta
1 clove garlic
2 ounces basil, the leaves of which will equal about 1 cup packed
The leaves from 4 stems tarragon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Pecorino cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup thawed frozen petite peas
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it, and add in the pasta shells. Stir, and cook until al dente. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, make the pistou. Obliterate the garlic clove in the food processor, and then add the basil and tarragon leaves. Pulse to chop. Add in the lemon zest, lemon juice, pepper, and a good amount of salt. Run the machine and drizzle in the olive oil. Decant the pistou to a bowl, and stir in the cheese.

3. Once you’ve drained the pasta, put the pot back on the stove on low heat. Add in the cream, pistou, peas, and crab meat. Make sure you go through the crab meat to make sure there are no shells, and to break it up a bit. Toss and heat through.

4. Add the pasta back into the pot, and toss to combine. Serve immediately. *We ended up serving it at room temperature and it actually worked really well on that hot evening.

crabby pasta